Gateway Comics is a recommendation thing I do where I list works in a franchise that are good for new readers, that hopefully make them want to check out more of the franchise or character. It features franchises/characters that I am personally familiar with, although I will be using others’ opinions at times. The key point is that these are recommendations for new readers.
The first installment of Gateway Comics focused on the X-Men, because they were my first superhero team comic. But of course, many of the X-Men have had their own series, and the one with the most, and one of the most popular X-Men is none other than Wolverine. Love him or hate him, the little Canadian mutant has had a lot of series over the years, so much so that it can be hard to figure out where to start. So I’m going to give those who want to start reading some good Wolverine comics a little help. I personally don’t feel too strongly about the character, but I’ve read a lot of his stuff, so I think I have a good frame of reference for this. Anyway, here are the comics I recommend for new readers looking to read more Wolverine.
“Get Mystique” by Jason Aaron
Taking place in Wolverine (2003) #62-65, “Get Mystique” focuses on Wolverine’s hunt for Mystique after her betrayal of the X-Men during the Messiah Complex crossover. The story is the beginning of Jason Aaron’s Wolverine run and I’d say it’s probably one of the best parts of it. It serves as an examination of the basic principle of Wolverine as an X-Man, using Mystique as his foil.
“Get Mystique” jumps between two stories: the present day hunt for Mystique and a story set decades ago, when Wolverine and Mystique first met, before mutants and superheroes were commonplace. The story has some interesting twists and great emotional beats, as well as a grit to it that would come to define Jason Aaron’s entire career. There are a lot of creative scenes, both action and non-action, which keeps you engaged in what could otherwise have been a fairly standard revenge story. “Get Mystique” has some great character moments for Wolverine, culminating in a scene that perfectly encapsulates Wolverine as a character.
While Jason Aaron’s X-Men work is very divisive these days, his Wolverine work is solid. You get a taste for the type of writer Aaron would become, but more importantly, you feel that he understands Wolverine as a character. “Get Mystique” is the perfect introduction to Logan as a character, and a nice little revenge story too.
Good for: People who want a character-driven revenge story starring Wolverine and Mystique that delves into Wolverine’s past and establishes what kind of character he is.
If you like it: Keep reading Jason Aaron’s Wolverine run! It’s a bit all over the place in terms of actual issues — I’d say going for trades is definitely easier, since it even takes place across half of a few issues at certain points. But it’s a solid ride across different genres — it even randomly goes into karate for two separate arcs, which I dislike, but I’ve heard others disagree. For an easier experience, I’d say start with Wolverine: Weapon X, then go into Wolverine: Manifest Destiny, then Astonishing Spider-Man and Wolverine before finally coming to Wolverine (2010), which was launched by Aaron, who writes most of it — the series eventually renumbers itself, starting with issue 300, and Aaron’s run ends at issue 304.
“Old Man Logan” by Mark Millar
Taking place in Wolverine (2003) #66-74 and Old Man Logan Giant Size #1, Mark Millar’s tale of an old Wolverine regaining his glory is one of those crowd-pleasers that just works. While its by no means deep or especially complex, it’s a great ride of violence, gore and maybe a little bit of character work here and there. Just don’t go into it expecting something tonally similar to the Logan film.
The original “Old Man Logan” story has the same basic premise as Logan, with an old, retired Wolverine in a world where superheroes and mutants aren’t a thing anymore. The similarities pretty much end there. While Logan is a grounded character study, “Old Man Logan” is a violent adventure through a world so dark that it borders on parody. However, there is some character work there, as Wolverine and Hawkeye traverse the Wastelands looking to overthrow the ruling supervillains, and we slowly learn why Logan has sheathed his claws for so long. However, it takes a back seat to the big action blowouts and Mark Millar letting his imagination run wild and creating this setting — Mark Millar’s edgy style of writing wears thin, but it at least feels (mostly) appropriate here — that would be better used by subsequent writers . Steve McNiven does a great job penciling it all, with a detailed, bombastic superhero style that only adds to the blockbuster nature of this story.
“Old Man Logan” is a popular alternate universe story for a good reason: it’s a blockbuster crowd-pleaser that gives you the violence, gore and stupid ideas that every 13-year-old wants. It’s not particularly deep, but it’s a weird kind of fun. There’s some Mark Millar edginess here, but it at least feels like it services the world-building. “Old Man Logan” is an interesting idea that would be taken further by other writers, but on its own can be enjoyed by turning your brain off.
Good for: People who want the comic equivalent of a popcorn flick, with some violence, gore and interesting ideas.
If you like it: The Old Man Logan (2016) ongoing is a nice read. It focuses more on Logan as a character, although it loses something by transporting him into the main Marvel Universe. Jeff Lemire’s run starts out strong before outstaying its welcome, but Ed Brisson closes things out on a (mostly) good note. The Old Man Logan (2015) miniseries can be skipped — it adds nothing to the story, is full of plot holes and is a tie-in to Secret Wars (2015). The Dead Man Logan miniseries, currently still ongoing, is set to close out Old Man Logan’s journey, and so far has been an alright read, if a bit lacking in art. Still, if you’re invested in the character, I recommend reading it.
Old Man Hawkeye is a prequel to the original “Old Man Logan” story and details, as you’d guess, what Clint Barton got up to prior to the story. It reads much better after reading “Old Man Logan”, but is superior to the original “Old Man Logan” in almost all ways. I’d highly recommend it, as it’s a great read, even if Logan only appears in it for like two pages.
Origin by Paul Jenkins
This is the big one, the one that tells us everything we need to know about our little Canadian hairball. Logan’s real name, where he’s from, how old he is, when his powers manifested, it’s all right here. Using its setting to great effect, Origin is a nice, small-scale story of drama, betrayal and a boy getting bone claws.
Origin takes place in 19th Century Canada, and focuses on the adventures of three kids and their early adulthood. While there is a twist that most people know, I’m going to avoid mentioning it in case some of you haven’t heard. In any event, we follow a young Logan through his happy childhood, the required tragedy that awakens his powers, and what he does from there. It feels very much like melodrama at points, but it all circles back to giving us the Logan we’ll all know. Things can get a bit frustrating with how some characters act, but I think taking it as a soap opera helps with that. While some parts of Logan are given their origin, just enough is left off the table that you don’t essentially get his Wiki page. Origin bolstered by Andy Kubert’s incredible art, with colours that feel appropriate to the era and setting.
While Origin isn’t an amazing comic, its place in history cannot be denied: this is the comic that revealed Wolverine’s origin. It answers just enough questions with its small-scale soap opera narrative, while leaving room for more to come. If you want to read a Wolverine comic with a different setting and time period, this is as good a place as any to start, especially if you want to learn where our little Canadian canucklehead came from.
Good for: People who like different period settings and want to learn about Logan, but don’t mind some soap opera-esque elements.
If you like it: Kieron Gillen wrote a follow-up to Origin called Origin II, that takes place not too long after Origin. It features the presence of the Creeds, Sabretooth’s family. It’s not as good of a read, but it’s okay for the most part and has some nice art. For a bit of an older read, but one important to Wolverine’s history, see the “Weapon X” storyline by Barry Windsor-Smith that ran in Marvel Comics Presents #72-84, which has aged pretty well.
Logan by Brian K. Vaughan is a solid miniseries focusing on Logan’s days during WWII, when he ends up in Japan. It has some great moments and use of its setting, and is definitely something you want to read if you like Wolverine in different settings and time periods.
Death of Wolverine by Charles Soule
Fittingly, I am going to close out this installment of Gateway Comics with the death of Wolverine. While it might seem strange that I am recommending a story like this, I think it mostly does a good job of really getting to the core of Logan’s character and his central conflict — the need to be a better man than what people try to force him to be. And, of course, there was stuff afterwards that this story gives you some context for.
Death of Wolverine opens with Logan having lost his healing factor months before, and now standing on his last legs. With a figure like Wolverine not in his prime, the world takes note: particularly villains. Wolverine is being hunted, and, not wanting to risk the lives of his friends, decides to go it alone. What follows is a gauntlet of some of Wolverine’s greatest villains… and some not so great moments. The story does a good job highlighting important parts of Wolverine’s life… but also not giving some aspects the send-off they deserve. It’s a very uneven read, but manages to get to the core of Wolverine’s character as the immortal soldier, samurai and hero — the ending is a resounding tribute to the best parts of the character. Steve McNiven’s art is great, like usual, and is the kind of detailed, versatile and beautiful mainstream comic book art that Wolverine deserves for his death.
When it comes to killing a popular character like Wolverine, we all know they will come back. But the death itself, and the journey there, that’s what matters, and Death of Wolverine does a good job paying tribute to its titular character and sending him off on a high note.
Good for: Those looking for a big blockbuster story that pays tribute to the character and sets up some cool stuff.
If you like it: The All-New Wolverine series, focusing on Laura Kinney (X-23) taking on Wolverine’s name, is a nice kind-of follow-up to this series. Return of Wolverine is a good direct sequel, also written by Charles Soule, that, as you could guess, features the return of Wolverine — the various Hunt For Wolverine titles do not really have any bearing on things and Wolverine, as far as I know, isn’t even present for the most part. However, the Hunt for Wolverine #1 one-shot is a good kind of interlude between Death of Wolverine and Return of Wolverine.